The World of Llowellen

Genesis. Season Three
An Incredible Journey (Part Three)

Date: Fear’s Day, 18th Dar 798 P.L. (Mid-afternoon)
Location: On board, The Gaia.

The ship’s master-at-arms, a seven-foot tall, stick-thin fairy with pale blue skin and a braided green beard was fiercely yelling orders at his crew as he tossed longspears at the sibeccai and crossbows at the fairies. Despite the danger, the master-at-arms shared a wild grin with Sarubek the Strider as their passenger armed himself alongside the crew.

The seasoned crew had their ship, The Gaia, under control. They were armed, but who could know if they were ready? The merchants had disappeared below decks, mad with panic for their precious cargo. The master-at-arms had selected a 15-foot long trident and was already recklessly balanced upon the ship’s rail, the weapon poised at the crashing waves below. The Captain of The Gaia held a white-knuckled grip upon the Ship’s Wheel, and her tail switched back and forth nervously, but she laughed out loud as looked up at the airship above them. The Princess Parizade banked steeply and descended, the fire elemental that powered the airship roaring fiercely and spinning about the ship in a revolving inferno.

The dragon turtle surfaced directly beneath the Seelie vessel and capsized her in a moment, with a single terrific blow. Fairies and sibeccai, merchants and crewmen, crashed into the blue-green waters, others fell upon the very shell of the monster, and others still clung to the wreckage of the ship where it had come to rest upon her side atop the turtle’s shell. The waters of the ocean raged with the wreckage and detritus of the ship, the violence of the turtle’s thrashing flippers, and the panicked splashing and floundering of too many sailors. Steam rose with an evil menace from the dragon turtle’s nostrils.

“All for Shoshana! ALL! This wretched beast will not defy destiny!” Without fanfare The Prophet dived off the airship, hurling himself toward the massive turtle below. Quin leaned far out over the rail, her sword skimmed the surface of the waves, cutting deeply and slashing red lines across the turtle’s head when she saw and heard Alias plummet from the stable doors below her and somehow splash-land onto the turtle’s shell.

“That crazy bastard.” The half-fey smiled. “Better make sure she he stays safe.”

Quin shook off the golden shawl that protected her from the sun, and climbed the rail. Without hesitation she dived gracefully off the airship’s balcony, arcing downward toward the waves. Even as she did so, the turtle made a terrible sound, like a pot screaming at the boil. It’s jaws opened wide, and a cloud of scalding steam engulfed the entire rear of the air ship. Quin dove through the steam cloud, hitting the water in a haze of pain. She surfaced amid the thrashing waves some fifty feet in front of the approaching turtle, and the survivors atop it’s shell.

The Prophet had fallen ahead of the steam cloud, but even so, he narrowly evaded entangling himself within the rigging of the ship wreck atop the turtle’s shell. Instead, he splash-landed hard into Sarubek and the blue-skinned Master-at-Arms, scattering several fairies and sibeccai who had mustered around the longspear embedded in the barnacle-crusted shell; a few clutching spears, all half-drowned and terrified.

The Prophet regained his feet, and raised his hands and his voice. “Am nacan Os so Dem lac.”

The Prophet’s prayer froze the spray of the ocean and conjured a lance of jagged ice. The ice lance flew from Alias’ outstretched palms and struck the dragon turtle in the back of the skull in an explosion of ice crystals and turtle blood. The creature raised it’s huge head and roared in pain.

On board The Princess, the stables were in chaos. The scalding steam had filled the place, burning everyone within. Alriak was on his hands and knees, horribly burned, it was all the young witch could do to drag himself away to safety; Jamila lay face down, dangerously close to the open bay doors, her legs were convulsing, her feet beating an ugly rhythm on the deck; Ali, the constant fidget, lay still, so terribly burned that his fur was shriveled into damp, crusty curls.

Only the genie remained on her feet, her own burns superficial. She screamed aloud, wordless grief and rage, and gathered up Jamila carrying her quickly into the griffon rider’s quarters and laying her down upon The Prophet’s bunk. Sarah arrived in the stable doorway, terror twisted the pretty girl’s face into one of horror.

“Help her!” Parizade shouted.

First Mate Hanbal had slowed the airship down and, in a testament to his skills as a pilot, he was maneuvering barely thirty feet above the dragon turtle matching it’s pace and path. The three ropes that Ali, Jamila and Alriak had secured trailed across the shell. The crew of The Gaia began to swarm up the ropes, half a dozen sibeccai sailors and fairy crewmen swinging in the wake of the airship. A number of other fairies took flight under their own initiative and flew directly to The Princess, alighting on the nearest deck and thanking The Mother for her mercy.

Those who couldn’t reach the ropes, scrambled to do so; thrashing through the water and screaming for help or climbing the rolling turtle shell and racing toward the ropes. Others though stood their ground, the Master-at-Arms clapped The Prophet on the back.

“Wonderful work, human.” The blue-skinned fey wore a broad smile. “Today we are alive, no?” He raised his trident and led a small group of crewmen in a charge upon the turtle’s head. Sarubek stayed behind, beside Alias, and drove the longspear as deeply as he could into the shell. The muscles on his arms bulged as he drove and twisted and levered the spear with all of his considerable might. The shell cracked and Sarubek felt soft meat beneath.

The turtle roared and dove beneath the waves. It’s huge mouth opened to bite Quinvera but she twisted in the water and collided with the side of the turtle’s head avoiding it’s jaws. She kicked her powerful, long legs and swam clear of the turtle’s wake, all the while continuing to slash at the thing’s head and eyes with her curved blade.

Two other sailor’s thrashing in the water were less fortunate than Quin, a fairy and a sibbecai were held fast within it’s maw. The turtle was swimming much faster now, and was already a couple of feet below the waves. On it’s shell, the wrecked Gaia shifted, twisted and began to come loose; several of those sailors scrambling at the dangling ropes were swept from the shell and those fighting alongside their Master-at-Arms, thrusting and stabbing at the back of the turtle’s head struggled to keep their feet.

Quin glanced upward at her airship, pleased that so many had already made it to safety but terrified for those who had been caught in the steam blast… but she couldn’t help them yet. She could help these poor souls in the water. Quin snatched a trailing rope and hauled herself above the waves, she extended a hand to a fairy whose wings looked broken and bedraggled, she pulled the little fellow out of the water and onto the rope.

“Let it go!” Quin screamed, waving her arms frantically at Alias. “Alias! Let the turtle swim, get them back in the water and up these damn ropes!”

She could never tell if Alias actually heard her or not, but as the turtle began to disappear beneath the surface, the druid raised his open hands to the blue sky muttering to no-one in particular.

“I tire of you great turtle,” the Prophet said, beside him Sarubek hammered the spear several more inches beneath the shell, a scarlet stream darkened the waters about the longspear and Sarubek clung to it as the water level rose above his knees and threatened to wash them away. “Be gone or be consumed by holy fire – descend and flee, or stay and die. The choice is yours, turtle.”

A pillar of divine flame roared downward from the Heaven’s at the Prophet’s direction. The fire engulfed the turtle’s submerged head in suddenly boiling, scalding water. The turtle screamed a terrible, bubbling cry of pain and dived sharply. The wreck of The Gaia gave one final lurch before breaking loose, the hull shattered as it broke free of the turtle’s shell. The water roiled and frothed as the massive creature disappeared beneath the waves. The wrecked ship slowly beginning to follow it down into the gloom leaving behind an ocean littered with flotsam and jetsam, the dead and the wounded.

Quin swung from the rope beneath her ship, one furred hand and one slender ankle curled around the rope like a gymnast, her other hand reached for Sarubek and plucked him from the waves. “Welcome aboard The Princess Parizade.” Quin smiled.

Quin called out for her animated sickle sword to fly back to her hand and once the last of the survivors were pulled from the water the Captain returned to the chaos on board her ship.

The crew of The Gaia, a motley mix of half-drowned sibbecai and fairies were gathered by the open stable doors watching the last of their ship disappear beneath the waves. Those that had made it aboard, anyway – only about a third of the crew – the rest had been lost with their ship or taken by the turtle.

Alriak was writhing in agony upon the floor. The turtle’s steam breath had burned the young sibeccai terribly; his brownish-red fur was curled to a crisp. Beside him, Jamila looked even worse as she lay in Alias’ bunk. The big woman’s breath was harsh and labored, she did not have the strength for screams. Sara was poised over them both, desperately holding their hands but at a loss for how to help.

“The Prophet!” Sara screamed. “Where is the Prophet?”

The brave Ali was simply dead. The genie held him in her arms, her blue hair had come loose of it’s braid and obscured her face, but floods of tears wracked her body as she cradled Ali’s burned corpse. Quin quickly pushed her way through the crowd at the stable doors and rushed to Sara’s side.

“Easy, Sara. Give her this,” Quin reached into her satchel and produced a handful of dark brown barhi dates. She squeezed one between her finger and thumb, breaking its ripened flesh into Jamila’s mouth. “You poor woman.”

Jamila gasped and her eyes focused as the blessed fruit slid down her throat, “Goddess be praised. Bless you, Captain.”

Sarubek looked about with concern at the wounded. “Though it is outside my expertise to heal, I gladly offer my assistance with any other task which needs doing. However, as soon as we have a moment to gather our thoughts, I would discus with you all the intended destination of this vessel.”

Below them, the ocean fell away as once more, as First Mate Hanbal took the ship up into the air and turned her westward toward the faraway horizon.

“Indeed.” Said Captain Khafaz, formerly of The Gaia. “A thousand thank yous for your timely rescue, you have such a marvelous ship. But, it must be said, that we appear to be headed in entirely the wrong direction.”

Captain Quinvera didn’t seem to have heard them. The tall half-fey had turned her attentions to Alriak, and was gently feeding him one of the blessed dates. Once the worst injuries were taken care of amongst the living, the Captain turned her attention to the dead and directed The Princess and Sara to take Ali’s body to the mosque belowdecks. Only once they had taken him away did she turn to the others.

“We are headed south and west.” Quin answered Sarubek.

“Very well,” said Sarubek. “Whatever your purpose may be aboard this airship, I must make my way to Myr’Sooq at the nearest opportunity. However, as you have saved my life and many others among this crew, I am in your debt and am obliged to help you with your current objectives.”

“I am Captain Quinvera of The Princess Parizade. We make for The Feyen Isles on our own business. Which is exactly the right direction, Captain Khafaz.”

“The Princess Parizade.” Captain Khafaz said, his eyes (and those of his crew) wide. “A ship of legend, lost and found. I’d heard the rumor before we left The Red City, but I’d given it no more mind than any other sailor’s tale. The way I heard it told, the Heroes of Yhakkoth had rescued the Sand King’s long-lost ship and were soon to present it to him in the name of their city. The Sand King was so excited that he’s announced a 13-day fight in the Colosseum; one of the biggest ever held. If all of that is true, and you’re returning this stolen vessel back to it’s rightful owner, Captain Quinvera, then I say again, you’re headed in the wrong direction.”

A cheeky smile lit Captain Quins face, “If you set sail from The Red City, Captain, then you’re no friend to The Sand King and neither is he to you. So I’m going to pretend I didn’t just listen to your patriotic preaching and we’ll stay friends.”

She glanced behind her to make sure that Sara had gone – she didn’t want to rub sand in old wounds, and Sara had been desperate to be set down in Lilanna… “We will not be diverting from our current course. But neither will be gone for very long. It may be that we can set you down in The Red City, and in Myr Sooq Master Sarubek, upon our return. In a week or two. I think you’ll find yourself comfortable enough in the meantime.”

Captain Khafaz was grinning from ear to ear at Quinvera. He replied, “Very well, my Captain. You have the right of it, of course. We are your honored guests and one thousand times thankful for your rescue. I will see my crew into their quarters and vouchsafe for the conduct. If you have any need whatsoever, of any of our considerable talents and skills, you need only ask.”

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Genesis. Season Three
An Incredible Journey (Part Two)

Date: Fear’s Day, 18th Dar 798 P.L. (Mid-afternoon)
Location: The Captain’s Quarters, The Princess Parizade.

Quin was startled when the genie materialized in her room. The half-fairy swordswoman was balanced on one foot, her other leg extended straight out to her side. Her sickle-sword perfectly poised above it. The sudden downward change in the ship’s course had seemingly not affected Quin’s remarkable balance. Quin’s sleep was still being disturbed by those strange dreams – she just couldn’t get rest and so had been spending much time alone – exercising her body as she tried to exorcise her mind of those strange nagging thoughts.

“Don’t you knock?!!” Quin laughed. “I am the Captain, you know!!!”

“One thousand apologies, Captain.” The Princess’ eyes were wide with fear. “There is a ship below us in dire peril. I fear all hands will be lost if we do not intervene. Look, ma’am.”

The Captain’s Quarters were situated in the aft castle on the fifth deck. The suite of rooms boasted banks of windows and balconies on three sides. The two women rushed to the sliding doors and stepped outside onto the deck. Quin had to lean far over the mahogany rails due to the sharp angle of the ship’s descent, but she whistled in amazement when she saw the size of the thing. The swordswoman stepped away from the rail and, heedless of the danger she performed a spinning jump from one side of the balcony to the other and finished with a perfect swish of her sickle blade as she came about launching her sword over the rail. The sword came alive with an arcane life of it’s own and angled downward like a missile, toward the turtle’s massive head.

Captain Quin returned the Master-at-Arm’s salute as she leaned out over the rail; her curved sword flew with an arcane life of it’s own at the turtles’ head. The turtle’s head snapped at the flashing blade and missed. Then the shadow of the airship passed overhead.

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Genesis. Season Three
An Incredible Journey (Part One)

Date: Fear’s Day, 18th Dar 798 P.L. (Mid-afternoon)
Location: The helm, on board The Princess Parizade.

Late in the morning, the western coast of Farid had given way to the blue expanse of the Khulet Sea. Ever since then the ocean had unfolded before them, as blue as the strange orb that Alriak carried. First Mate Hanbal had plotted their route, across the ocean, across the continental Northern Summan and beyond; far, far beyond to the Feyen Isles and the World Mountain.

It was an incredible journey. “Some ten thousand miles and more, I stopped countin’,” First Mate Hanbal had told everyone he’d seen that afternoon. “Most of it over ocean, although we’ll be a day or two above the Honoros Forest. If we had a Ship’s Magister we could make the trip faster fer sure, but we don’t, and so I reckon we’re three weeks away from the Goddess. And from then it’ll be three weeks back again, before yer ruck with His Majesty, the Sand King.”

The First Mate shook his head in disbelief at the sound of his own words, First Mate Hanbal still wore the King’s uniform after all. Parizade smiled, a melancholy look haunting her eyes.

“I would sooner dash this ship and myself to pieces upon the walls of his Dark Tower,” she said. “Sooner that, than all of you risk yourselves for myself and my husband. The King has held him for all these years, he won’t release him now, not without first taking back me and his cursed ship. And, likely not even then.”

“It won’t come to all that, Princess.” Hanbal tried to reassure her, but he couldn’t hide the doubt from his own voice. “The Captain’ll think of something, yer’ll see. Now then, what’s occurring down there?”

Below them a sleek ship, under the flag of the Red City, was headed south-east. It was almost directly beneath them, some 300 feet or so below the dry hull of The Princess Parizade. Her crew of sibeccai and fairies were frantically securing their sails, grabbing their oars and arming themselves. The reason for their panic, was all too obviously right before them in the water.

A huge turtle, it’s shell almost equal in size to the Seelie ship, had broken the surface of the water less than a hundred feet in front of them. The jagged peaks and valleys of it’s barnacle-encrusted shell looming like an island suddenly in her path.

The turtle’s head, still partially submerged, seemed to nod in satisfaction at the approaching vessel. It’s terrible flippers churned the water around it, suddenly and violently and the turtle dived beneath the surface of the water once again.

From their lofty vantage, high upon the bridge of The Princess Parizade, First Mate Hanbal and the genie could see the dark shape of the turtle make it’s way beneath the water and beneath the boat herself.

“Oh bloody hell, m’lady.” Hanbal said. “That’s a bloody dragon turtle that is, and a bloody great big one, an’ all.”

“Oh, those poor people!” The Princess gasped. “First Mate! Take us down, as fast as you can. We’ve got to help them! I’ll alert the Captain.”

In an instant the genie was gone, a momentary blur of speed before she vanished into the deck below their feet. Ali paced up and down, clasping his hands frantically. He threw nervous glances at the Seelie vessel below, but as the dark shadow of the dragon turtle passed directly beneath her he couldn’t bear to keep watching.

“How are we going to help them?” Ali asked. “Can we land in the ocean? Can we get them aboard?”

The First Mate quickly leaned over the archaic control panel, etching a rune in charcoal, lighting several incense burners and extinguishing others, sliding beads along an abacus and examining a bizarre looking astrolabe.

“We’re not gonna be puttin’ down in the water, Master Ali.” The First Mate spoke in high-pitched excited tones, his antennae were going nuts. “This ship’ll do some amazin’ things, but what it won’t do is float! Unless anyone’s got any better ideas, I reckon you’d want to be findin’ some ropes mighty quick and gettin’ out on deck.”

“Ropes!” Ali shouted, his pacing ceased. “I’ve seen some. Where have I seen ropes? The griffin stables!”

The unassuming merchant raced suddenly from the bridge and down the spiral stairs just as fast as he could. It was precarious going, the First Mate had put the ship into a steep downward arc, Ali was forced to cling to the polished ivory rail as he raced down from the bridge. He almost collided with the young witch, who was climbing up from below decks rubbing at the sleep in his eyes, “What now?” Alriak mumbled.

“Quickly!” Ali fairly screamed. “Ropes! We need ropes! Help me! Follow me! Ropes!”

Ali didn’t wait to see if Alriak would follow. He raced through the kitchen, “Ropes!” Ali gasped at Jamila as he upset the stack of plates she was carrying. They fell with a crash and smashed. Together Ali and Jamila burst into the griffon stables and snatched up the coils of rope that hung from the wall.

The door to the griffon rider’s quarters was open and swinging wildly as the airship continued it’s erratic descent. The Prophet lay on the floor in the doorway where he had fallen when The Princess banked.

“Prophet!” Jamila shouted. The scrawny dark-skinned druid was bleeding a little where he had cracked his head into the door frame; scorpions and a handful of spiders fell from his matted beard as he shook his head trying to clear it.

“What? What?” The Prophet grumbled, barely coherent. He rose to his feet and blinked a few times to clear his head. The blood from his wound dripped down to the tip of his nose. A solitary spider raced across his face to get a taste of it.

“Help me!” Ali had hauled the ropes to the stable doors. “If we can secure these ropes, we may be able to help some of those poor people aboard.”

Alriak and Jamila rushed to help, snatching up ropes and securing them to hooks and posts. Parizade suddenly materialized before the sliding stable doors. The genie arrived in a scouring whirlwind of sand and straw, and threw open the massive doors. The airship had finally righted itself and slowed, they were flying barely thirty feet above the waves, in a tight circle above the doomed Gaia.

Below them was a terrible scene, the dragon turtle had surfaced directly beneath the Seelie vessel and capsized her in a moment, with a single terrific blow. Fairies and sibeccai, merchants and crewmen, floundered in the blue-green waters, others had fallen upon the very shell of the monster, and a very few clung to the wreckage of the ship where it had come to rest upon her side atop the turtle’s shell.

The waters of the ocean raged with the wreckage and detritus of The Gaia, the violence of the turtle’s thrashing flippers, and the panicked splashing of too many sailors. Steam rose with an evil menace from the dragon turtle’s nostrils.

One of the crew members had managed to drive a longspear into the turtle’s shell like a flag upon a conquered hill. It was unclear whether or not the spear had found meat beneath the barnacle encrusted shell, but a small band of sibeccai and fairies had rallied about it. The Master-at-Arms was there, and he raised his trident in salute as The Princess Parizade passed overhead, the three sibeccai, the genie and The Prophet visible in her open bay doors.

“Blue Djinni’s and blue hells!” The Prophet cried, to no one in particular. “Why are you flying so low? That creature will wrench at your ropes and pull you also into the drink if you’re not wise about it!”

“How else are we to pull the survivor’s aboard!” Ali shouted. “They are lost without us.”

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Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Seven)

Date: Mavoduna, 17th Dar 798 P.L.
Location: The Ship’s Kitchen, The Princess Parizade

“Calmer heads prevail, that’s what you said yesterday,” Sara spoke harshly, her voice raising. “Well, you got your way didn’t you First Mate Hanbal? You convinced Captain Quinvera not to fly us into Ishtaduk – where questions might be asked why you, a member of the Yhakkoth Royal Navy, and a King’s Templar no less, were so happy to serve among fugitives on a stolen ship!”

Ali paced nervously behind Sara, pulling at the fur on his stomach like he always did when he was anxious. He glanced up at First Mate Hanbal who stood at the head of the kitchen island glaring at Sara, his cloven goat’s hooves stomped upon the wooden floor and his face was flushed a deeper purple than usual.

“You wouldn’t know anything about it, I find piracy much less duplicitous and a damn sight more honest than His Majesty’s Royal Navy!”

“I demand it.” Sara said again, ignoring him. "We’ll disguise the ship as best we can, but I demand that you land this ship at Lillanna. This would have been much easier if you had listened to me yesterday, when we could have unloaded at Muan Oasis. Arishka would have taken us in. But if you will not return us to Muan Oasis, then you will set us down in Lillanna, and you will unload my cargo. The pirates knew it’s worth, that’s why they took it and I’ll be damned if I am going to return to my father with nothing. "

“Sara, ah know the grief’s eatin’ y’up, yer lost a lot of yer folk ter those pirates, an’ yer suffered terrible. But look at us. We’re like sumthin’ the cat dragged in. We’re in nae shape tae ruck wi’ the Navy an’ that’s what we’d be doin’ if we set about to unload yer cargo on the dockside like we were’nt flyin’ the most infamous airship in all of history." The First Mate’s antennae waggled like a teacher’s scolding finger.

Sara had been arguing her case since the First Mate sat down to break his fast, and she showed no sign of letting up.

“Sara," Alriak said with a calm voice. “May I speak with you a moment?”

Sara turned her furious gaze upon the young witch, “What!” She barked, following him out of the Ship’s Kitchen and onto the aft deck. Behind them, First Mate Hanbal sighed heavily and beat a hasty retreat below decks, intent on business as far away from the spoiled young merchant girl as he could take himself.

“I understand your frustration and the concern for your cargo, but I hope to persuade you to consider what is at stake here." Alriak said. “Should we make port anywhere right now we stand the risk of being arrested and having everything, including your cargo, confiscated. There is no telling what lies First Mate Hanbal may tell, should he be approached by the authorities. We must make our decisions carefully. We must not be guided by pride or by profit, we must allow the Goddess to guide us.”

The fire burning in Sara’s pretty, kohl-rimmed eyes quelled. She leaned back against the ship’s rail, and hung her veiled head as she listened.

“I have been in the presence of Mother Anwen herself. She gives me glimpses of what is to come in my dreams. I am not sure what it all means, but it is bigger than anything our meager lives have ever been a part. We mustn’t turn from this calling now.” Alriak stepped closer, smelling the young woman’s expensive perfumes. “Our Mother has summoned us to meet with her upon the World Mountain. There we are to receive her blessing. I am not sure exactly what this means but I think we must make haste there.”

“You shame me, Master Alriak.” Sara said. “Those pirates – those bastard pirates. I know that you, too, suffered at their hands. And Ali, and poor Jamila. But they have taken everything from me; my hopes, my dreams, my honor. I just want it back! What is mine, and what is owed. But you are right, of course, you are a thousand times right. The Goddess is merciful and all-knowing and I am but her humble child. Shukrun, Master Alriak.”

After they had finished talking, Sara returned to her room in the Officer’s Quarters, removing herself from the company of the others. The airship continued its voyage west. Faint and faraway dots upon the horizon, revealed themselves to be distant airships circling, descending and ascending among the spires of the City of Lilanna. Foot traffic increased below the Royal Ship as caravans, pulled by mighty desert turtles, made their own way to and from the bustling marketplaces of Lilanna. First Mate Hanbal maintained a healthy altitude and a dizzying speed, in the hope that they might pass without being recognized.

It all feels so foolish Alriak thought to himself, as he watched the towers of the city dwindle and fade into the distance behind them. The speed the airship was capable of, when the fire elemental was pushed, was staggering; and it made Alriak more than a little dizzy to be stood on the open deck. He returned below deck, to his quarters and closed his door for privacy, although only Jamila (who preferred to bunk in the humble crew quarters nearby) ever came this far below decks.

“I wonder if I am doing this right?” He said to himself, other people made prayer seem so effortless, Alriak always ended up feeling uncomfortable. The air in his cabin was stale (the former tenant had been the fearsome Court Magister and apparently she preferred few windows) but it provided a comforting escape from the relentless sun. Alriak closed his eyes. Thoughts of Meloria raced through his mind; his sleep had been disturbed recently by nightmares. In his dreams Alriak was lost in total darkness and Meloria was calling out to him for help; he would helplessly search for her, but in the utter blackness his sense of terror would rise to an intolerable peak and awaken him, sweating and screaming.

Now, when his thoughts turned to his missing friend, a comforting vision of Meloria, embraced within Anwen’s arms came to mind. The Goddess and Meloria turned and nodded toward him, as if everything were okay. Alriak felt the anxiety that had plagued him since their unfortunate separation lifted from his shoulders. His prayers had delivered a new sense of hope that perhaps Sara would also be able to find.The young witch drifted off into the first comfortable sleep he’d managed to have in some time.

Outside, the fierce desert sun passed it’s noon day zenith and the Royal airship crossed the mighty Muqhail River far, far below. They had escaped the Sand King’s nation of Ishtaduk and crossed into Banu-Sippar, ahead lay the City of Arbail and beyond that the Western Lowlands and the faraway Khulet Sea.

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Ali (NPC)
Alriak (MacGreine)
First Mate Hanbal (NPC)
Jamila the Driver (NPC)
Princess Parizade (NPC)
Sarah, of House Summonel (NPC)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2012

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Gladiator!
The Dar Games (Part One)

Date: 25th Dar, 798 P.L.
Location: The Unseelie Colosseum, City of Ishtaduk

The Opening Ceremony began at nightfall, on the 25th. The Sand King had decreed that The Dar Games be held to mark the end of another fierce summer. They were to be a succession of free-booting gladiatorial contests to be held over thirteen nights. The Dar Champion – the single gladiator to emerge victorious after thirteen nights on the sands will be permitted to publicly approach The Sand King and beg his favor.

The Dar Games are attended by Kin-Yhakkor and General Marduk, the God-Kings of the neighboring City of Yhakkoth. These Royal guests of honor have just arrived in the City of Ishtaduk, amid much pomp and ceremony. It is no great secret that The Sand King’s fabled airship, the long-lost Princess Parizade had been found again by The Heroes of Yhakkoth. If the whispered gossip and rumor were to be believed, the visiting dignitaries planned to present the legendary vessel to their Unseelie Liege during the Closing Ceremony of the Games.

It was a great shock then – to the crowded thousands in the Colosseum when their King never took his seat. The Sand Throne remained empty, and unexplained. An open insult to Kin-Yhakkor and General Marduk who were left alone to greet the two hundred or so gladiators that filed onto the sands in The Unseelie Colosseum.

Nevertheless, the visiting royalty surveyed the prospective combatants and selected two: the untested slave Drusilla and the dwarven freebooter Rikard the Bull. Against them, they selected another giant, The Captain and another dwarf, Hagga the Howler. The four gladiators accepted the match, and the others filed out of the arena.

The Dar Games were begun! That very first combat set the tone for the whole games. The two dwarves and the two giants battered away at each other in a vicious and unrelenting combat. Drusilla and Rikard emerged victorious, but badly blooded. They were each fortunate, not to be selected for a return to the sands on that first day.

There were many others who were less fortunate.

The Dar Games
by Ian Hewitt

Drusilla the Unblooded (Donna Hewitt)
Rikard the Bull (MacGreine)
The Captain (NPC)
Hagga the Howler (NPC)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Played at the virtual tabletop.
Winter 2012

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Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Six)

Date: Moon’s Day, 16th Dar 798 P.L. (Evening)
Location: The Royal Deck, The Princess Parizade

The blue haze receded as quickly as it had arisen, taking with it the vision of the three women. Alriak, Alias and Quin were once more stood upon the deck of the Princess Parizade, beneath the Royal Pavilion, the words of the White Witch echoing in their ears, “Come to me, come to me.”

Jamila rushed to the Prophet and lowered him to the deck of the ship, the human had an unusual look upon his face. The earlier look of rare happiness had become one of unbridled, divine joy.

“Rhea!” The Prophet whispered in awe, before his eyes rolled up in his head and he lapsed into unconsciousness with that same blissful look unchanged.

The sand storm continued to rage about them, but it had lessened somewhat. Parizade and Jamila rushed to them. The genie handed Alriak his blue orb, once more returned to it’s normal size.

“What happened to you?” She asked.

“I am not really sure how to explain what has taken place,” The whole experience had left Alriak weak and emotionally drained. He accepted the small blue orb, “But I believe we were just brought into the presence of Anwen and her angels. The White Witch has beckoned us come to her at the Womb-Grove.”

Princess Parizade’s eyes were wide indeed, “The Womb-Grove!”

Every child ever born had likely heard tales of the sacred Womb-Grove of Anwen, spiritual and literal home of the Mother-Goddess. It was located on the very peaks of Mount Anwen, the World Mountain, but few were those who ever made that pilgrimage. The Queen of the Seelie was known to have made the climb to seek counsel with the Goddess after the Sand King’s revolt, but this was the stuff of ancient fey legend.

Alriak glanced at the sphere before returning it to his pouch and slowly lowering himself to the deck below his feet. He looked to the night sky and said, "There is an even greater storm than this on our horizon, Princess. One that we must face bravely.

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Alias, Prophet of Anaru (Doug Harris)
Alriak (MacGreine)
Jamila the Driver (NPC)
Princess Parizade (NPC)
Quinvera the Tall (Donna Hewitt)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2011

View
Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Five)

Date: Moon’s Day, 16th Dar 798 P.L. (Early evening)
Location: The Royal Deck, The Princess Parizade

The greatest views from anywhere on board The Princess Parizade (with the exception of the lofty helm) were to be found on the Royal Deck. A large pavilion provided protection from the burning sun, which already pushed the springtime temperatures into the 100’s daily.

Here, the Sand King would lounge with his guests, at the very prow of his airship and survey all that he commands. And here, the Prophet of Shoshanna hustled about, preparing for the vatic ceremony; performing the ceremony at a symbolic location, such as this, could very well prove helpful to the vision.

“We’ll see how well you sleep tonight Princess,” the Prophet muttered to himself, oblivious to the scorpion that crawled out of his beard and vanished into the mess of his hair. “Ah, the Sand King is probably your blood-kin, I’ll bet. We’ll find out the truth of it, soon enough.”

The vatic ceremony was an ancient meditative ritual. As a Prophet, Alias was able to recognize and interpret actual dreams, but a vatic vision was something else, something altogether more powerful. More dangerous, too, but everything came with a price, especially in these mercantile lands.

The human spilled the incense into the bowl, he had gathered these herbs a long time ago in the Holy Sister’s gardens at the Abbey in Yhakkoth, for just such an occasion. The incense would aid the waking dreamer in achieving the vatic sight; either that, or they would empty their stomachs and pass out.

Once he was satisfied with the preparation of the incense, Alias turned his attention to the deck, scratching glyphs and patterns with a stick of charcoal in the prescribed manner.
Journeys of the dreamtime
The sun would soon be setting, and the others would be arriving. It was very important that they not be disturbed during the ceremony – a fact that the Prophet had stressed to First Mate Hanbal, so that he might perform whatever naval duties were necessary to provide a calm and quiet environment. The consequences of being disturbed while attempting to divine the fate of a being as powerful as the Sand King, would be dire indeed!

The former wagon driver, Jamila, was the first to arrive. In fact, she had been observing the Prophet since he began his preparations and only now stepped forward, timidly.

“Es salam alekum, Prophet,” Jamila said, a nervous smile upon her usually jovial face. “Is there anything that I can do to help you prepare?”

“Of course you can help, dear woman,” Alias said smiling at her. “First, please bring me some water. It is a blessing indeed for worthy hands that can assist.”

Jamila nodded and turned to fetch the water, but the Prophet took her hands before she could leave. Jamila’s hands were as coarse as a warrior’s, her fur thin and gray; twenty years spent driving lizards across the desert will take it’s toll.

“Shoshanna be praised,” Alias said.Sibeccai

“Shoshanna be praised.” Jamila replied, her haunted eyes filling with tears.

Jamila soon returned with the water and Alias paused to drink deeply. With water (and spiders) dripping from his matted beard, the Prophet allowed Jamila to assist the final preparations. Alias guided her hand in drawing the last of the glyphs.

“You have a fine skill. We must always be conscious of the blessings we are about to receive. We must be grateful so the vision will share its truth.” He laughed when Jamila made an error in the design. “Do not worry, nervous one, that you have offered to assist is a more important omen than whether the paint is set dry before the viewing. May all blessings be upon Her.”

Alias was as happy as Jamila had ever seen him, and she offered another whispered prayer of thanks to Shoshanna. The Prophet was a great man, and he always seemed so troubled, he deserved a moment’s respite, she thought to herself.

By the time the sun was setting, and the others had arrived, Alias was even more animated and cheerful. Even Quin, who had known the Prophet the longest had never seen him quite so pleased with himself.

Quin, Alriak, and Princess Parizade crossed the Royal Deck and joined them under the pavilion.

“Well you seem in fine spirits this evening,” Alriak said, trying to recognize the joyful tune the Prophet was humming. “Especially for someone who only hours ago was unconscious and bleeding. So what have you in store for us this evening? What is this ceremony?”

The Prophet didn’t appear to have noticed them immediately, as he knelt and lit the incense. A plume of wispy blue smoke began to spiral up into the canopy of the pavilion. The smoke lingered, despite the fact that the wind had picked up this evening, blowing sheets of sand across the desert below them. Jamila looked around and selected a place among the glyphs and spiraling patterns to sit. Princess Parizade sat down too, although her eyes remained on the unusually jovial human.

“Find a place to sit down,” Jamila said. “I think we all need to meditate. We should pray, perhaps.”

The events of the day were piecing themselves together like a well known story, Alriak thought to himself. Although it remained unclear, he had dreamed of this very scenario only nights before. Everything that was happening now, right down to the words Jamila had just spoken had played themselves out in his dreams. Yet he was unclear where this was going. He couldn’t seem to piece things together until they happened and then it felt like deja vu. Was he to dread the words of the Prophet or to celebrate them? Clearly the Goddess had been good to him, because he should be bed ridden, if not dead, with the wounds he’d received this morning. But here he was singing and preparing a ceremony.

Alriak had called upon the Goddess a few times, but she never seemed to talk back. This Prophet had a connection with someone or something greater than anything Alriak had ever known and because of that he would listen and observe.

Removing the small blue sphere from his bag he gazed into it focusing his energies on something greater than himself. Something greater than anyone here.

The genie folded her long legs and sat beside him; the others were doing the same thing, but it was becoming harder for Alriak to see them. The smoke, from whatever herbs the crazy human was burning, had suddenly thickened. It was becoming an increasingly windy evening, but the blue smoke from incense burner did not pass beyond the perimeter of swirling patterns drawn by Alias and Jamila.

And it stank! Jamila turned a sickly green and lost her dinner.

The wind whistled and roared across the deck, threatening to wrench the pavilion from it’s moorings and scouring everyone in a shower of grating sand from the dunes beneath.

“A storm is upon us,” Parizade had to shout to be heard. “I must return to the helm. The First Mate will need my help.”

The genie stood and was about to leave but she was interrupted by a thud. The airship was being rocked hard now by the storm, sand was beginning to gather in drifts upon the deck, forcing everyone to wrap their faces to avoid choking. Impossibly the pungent blue smoke still lingered beneath the madly flapping pavilion.Sandstorms

The thud had come from the strange blue orb that Alriak held – the jostling deck must have caused the witch to lose his grip and it had fallen at his feet with a crash that had cracked the planking on the deck. It rolled rapidly across the sloping deck as everyone else, struggled to keep their balance.

Parizade was transfixed, could such a small thing possibly be so heavy? The decking was constructed with lumber taken from the Fairy Woods of the Seelie Court and blessed to be as strong as a rock.

The blue ball reached the center of their circle and levitated, it was spinning and spinning upon its own axis and it appeared to be getting larger by the second. Its growth was so rapid that in moment’s it would threaten to force everyone from beneath the pavilion – and it showed no signs of slowing.

Alriak felt a deep feeling of dread. His father’s image swam into his mind, and his angry words, “I don’t know what it is with you Alriak! You seem to be a bringer of trouble. Everything you do comes out wrong! You have been nothing more than a disgrace to our entire family and all that you touch seems to fall apart and cause others grief.”

Jamila, still nauseated from the smoke, staggered blindly to her feet and almost immediately fell when the airship bounced violently through pockets of turbulence.

“Prophet Alias!” She cried out. “Where are you?”

Alriak ran for the sphere and dove to grab it with his hands.

“Wait!” Quin shouted and lunged to grab him. But she could hardly see in the blowing sand and she missed him. Quin understood only a little about the Prophet’s magic; but she knew enough to understand that a vatic ceremony may well blur the lines of reality, it may indeed cause hallucinations – but these visions were not always false.

Alriak felt as if he were trying to collect spilled milk – in the brief moment it took for him to reach the small orb that he had kept in his pocket, it had grown so large that he could barely put his arms around it.

But, he tried.

His hands met no resistance. Alriak may as well have tried to gather the blowing sand from the air – his arms passed through and into the expanding blue sphere. He felt someone grab his hands – firmly, but not aggressively, and tug him forward into the sphere.

The chaos of the bucking deck, the scouring sand and the cloying incense all fell away and the young witch blinked his eyes and rubbed the sand from them. Was he even still on board the ship? He was surrounded by blue nothingness, emphasized by drifting white clouds and ethereal wisps.

Quin and Alias were beside him now, whether they had been swallowed by the sphere against their will, he could not say and before any of them could gather their senses, three figures emerged from the clouds, levitating forward.

The first was a fierce-looking gnomish woman, elderly and bent. She leaned upon the handle of a broomstick as if it were a quarterstaff and her unkind eyes pierced Alriak, “Do you know me, Witch?” She asked and scratched the errant whiskers on her chin.

The second was a tall sibeccai women with the same shockingly white fur that Quinvera had. This woman was dressed simply in the way of the Bedouin and carried a shepherd’s crook. She smiled kindly and extended her arms towards Quin as if to embrace her.

The third figure to emerge from the mist was a dark-skinned, winged human woman. Tall and slender, armored in shining scale mail and armed with a golden morningstar upon her hip. If there were any discernible light within this strange blue netherworld, it seemed to emanate from this last woman as if she were somehow lit from within.Rhea She raised her morningstar in salute and dropped to her knee before the Prophet.

Fear gripped Alriak tightly. It was the kind of fear that takes away ones ability to speak or even move. It wasn’t the situation he was in or the women that stood before him that filled him with fear. Nor was it the thought of death. Quite the opposite, Alriak had embraced the thought of moving beyond this painful and trouble ridden life.

What paralyzed Alriak with fear as he stood before these women was the fact that he felt like they could see right through him. It was like everything he was, is and would ever be was obvious for these women to see. Every tear he had ever cried. Every person he had ever helped (or hurt), every word uttered, every choice made was now common knowledge in this place. He was naked with no place to hide. Every aspect of his life now an open book. Was he to be judged? Was he about to give an account?

He felt embarrassed and a heavy sense of conviction fell upon him. Seeing it all laid out before him he realized his life had been a waste. He had spent his life, thus far, constructing a self centered identity from his painful experiences and it sickened him. He wished he could take it all back. Start over.

The woman’s question remained and seemed to hang in the air around him,

“Do you know me witch?” But Alriak stood frozen and unable to reply.

He did know her, of course, they all did. It was the Goddess Anwen, flanked by a pair of Shoshanna’s Angels. Of this incredible, unbelievable fact, there could be no doubt.

The women stepped forward.

The White Witch held up her hand and reached for Alriak. She pressed her open palm over his heart, instilling in him a feeling of grace, and nodded, “You will be the Heart of Anwen. Come to me and receive my blessing.”

Her touch was soft and yet flowed with the energy of a thousand suns. Alriak looked down at her hand and he could sense the aura surrounding its form. She meant him no harm. She was Good and he knew that for sure now.

“Are you the one behind my dreams and strange powers?” Alriak asked meekly.

The White Witch merely looked at him in reply, it was obvious he knew the truth. He felt revitalized and although he wasn’t sure what she meant, he trusted that all things would be revealed in time.

The Angel completed her salute and stood, kissing Alias on the mouth, “You will be the Voice of Shoshanna.”

The white-furred sibeccai embraced Quin, “You, my Granddaughter, will be the Arm of Anwen and the Will of Shoshanna.”

“Come to me, my children.” The White Witch addressed them all. “Come to me and receive my blessing. A storm approaches. A terrible, terrible storm.”

Ghost trails and wisps of blowing sand whirled about their feet; above them, in the blue haze of this no-place a dark sun, eclipsed, hung heavily in the sky. Comets and meteors rained down from the sky.

“Everything Alias has prophesied is true.” The Angel said, removing her helmet. Quin and Alias recognized her immediately, despite her altered appearance, it was Rhea, the Light-Child who had sacrificed herself to save them in Yhakkoth. “On the first day of the world, when Shoshanna created light and life, the first shadow was cast. Her shadow. Her opposite. Her antipathy. A God of the Dark places. While the Lady of the Light rested on the thirteenth day, the Dark Lord seeped into the world, he insinuated himself into its warp and its weft. There he created his own domain. His was the face of the stone turned against the soil. The night, the shadows, the stillness of a tomb, the dark places in men’s hearts were all his. These were the places where even Angels fear to tread.”

“Shoshanna realized her error too late and her vengeance was terrible.” The beautiful sibeccai said. “She destroyed the world utterly. She shattered the planet and cast it aside to begin anew. I, Ashasunnu witnessed the first remnants of this ruined world falling upon ours. You, Granddaughter, carry within you, the soul of a single inhabitant of that world, their being encoded within your runic tattoo.”

“The Sand King has long erred against my laws and led my people astray.” The White Witch said bitterly. “I have sought to resist him peacefully, but to no avail.”

“The Sand King has taken heed of what has happened in Yhakkoth.” Rhea said. “He saw the power and influence offered by the Dark Ones and he has welcomed them into his Court. The Sand King’s strength is growing, and now he offends not only Mother Anwen, but the All-Mother Herself, Shoshanna. He must be stopped, before Shoshanna’s ungentle wrath is felt once more.”

“Your dreams will show you the way.” The White Witch said to Alriak. “Your heart will temper the zeal of the Prophet.”

“Your dagger has the power to slay any who holds the darkness in his heart.” Ashasunnu said to Quin. “Your arm will carve a bloody path to the Unseelie Throne, if needs be.”

“Your words will deliver the Truth, Prophet.” The White Witch said. “The Truth will defeat the Sand King, more completely than steel and magic. Come to me, my Children. Come to me, at the Womb-Grove and receive my blessing.”

Alriak listened intently as the women spoke. Their words casting visions of incredible things before his eyes. Things he could never imagine. Their words filled him with an understanding of why this world was sometimes so difficult. He had always wondered why a world as beautiful as this could be riddled with so much pain and suffering. Now he understood. He hated the darkness of his own heart even more now.

He shuddered at the thought of tempering the zeal of the prophet. More like babysit that nut, he thought to himself. Quickly he caught himself and changed his thoughts. This was precisely the darkness of heart he should not allow in himself. The White Witch seemed to gaze at him knowingly.

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Alias, Prophet of Anaru (Doug Harris)
Alriak (MacGreine)
Jamila the Driver (NPC)
Princess Parizade (NPC)
Quinvera the Tall (Donna Hewitt)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2011

View
Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Four)

Date: Moon’s Day, 16th Dar 798 P.L. (Morning)
Location: The Ship’s Kitchen, The Princess Parizade

The following morning First Mate Hanbal entered the kitchen. Everyone had gathered around the huge island, where Jamila had prepared a platter of dates and olives and Ali had gathered together bread and some exotic-looking jars of jams. Outside the sun was only just beginning to rise, but already, in the windowless kitchen especially, the heat of the day was making its relentless return.

“With no Ship’s Wizard on board,” First Mate Hanbal said, “we cannot afford to tax the fire elemental unduly. So I have spoken with the Pilot. We can maintain a steady pace during the day and drop anchor at night, and she can keep us on a steady course without any more crew. It’s amazing really! We will be over the Magister’s City tomorrow morning, and we could be docking in Ishtaduk before the end of the week.”

The First Mate’s gaze turned, pleading, with Quin’s, “If that is still the plan, Captain? The day after the night before, calmer heads will prevail, and all that.”

“Look at this,” Sara thumped her finger down at the freshly jam-stained charts Hanbal had set on the island. “We are only two days, three at best south of Muan Oasis. Arishka the Trader is an associate of House Summonel. We can unload what is left of our cargo into his warehouse, and recoup.”

Peryton

The Princess Parizade rocked violently to the starboard, as if buffeted by a powerful wind. Alriak bashed elbow and dropped his plate, spilling dates across the floor. Ali tried to catch the falling coffee carafe and missed.

A terrifying woman’s voice screams out, “May you meet the day with a restless heart and know a thousand sleepless nights!” It was a curse, antiquated now and spoken in an archaic desert dialect.

Parizade appeared a burst of sand and dust, the scouring cloud blew into the room through cracks in the ceiling and then suddenly she was among them. Her usually blue skin, now a pale purple.

“The ship is under attack, beasts from the desert!” Parizade said.

Quinvera the Tall was the quickest to react. In one moment the half-fairy was sat at the kitchen counter laughing with Sara and Jamila, popping olives into her mouth, and the next instant the lithe, powerful spellsword was on her feet and racing toward the mid-deck. The other two women raced along behind her, a little less sure of themselves.

“Alias is out there alone!” Jamila cried as they raced from the kitchen, scattering pots and pans in their wake.

From his lofty vantage by the raven’s nest, Alias watched as the creature shook the airship violently and then turned to glance downward as Quin burst from the aft-castle with those two slave women, right behind her.

Two more of these terrifying creatures circled the hovering airship, their shadows criss-crossing over the deck below. Bizarrely, unnervingly, their shadows were that of ordinary sibeccai, not the twisted monstrosity that screamed obscenities and curses in an unusual dialect.

Alias could see a fourth creature pacing the sands below them, it’s wings beating impatiently as if it itched to join the melee. Several smaller, younger creatures waited on the ground with this last one, bleating plaintively. The druid flexed his wide condor wings and circled the mast.

Alias opened his beak and cried out, a condor’s call. The wind heard the druid’s defiant prayer and it answered. A violent squall suddenly picked up above the airship. The rigging began to rat-a-tat-tat across the beams and the mast, but the true storm was above where the wind had reached a near hurricane. The two circling beasts were forced off course, and left struggling to stay aloft. The condor cried out again in satisfaction and landed inside the raven’s nest.

Alriak, Ali and First Mate Hanbal burst out onto the deck, behind the women. Their fur waving in the druid’s wind. Alriak wore a new shield on his arm and clung to a small worn satchel.

The creature on the helm’s roof paused in it’s shaking of the mast and looked up at the other two. They were caught in the buffeting wind and being forced to retreat and approach the airship from below.

“Where be you, magister?” The creature screeched in an archaic and high-pitched tone, before leaping across the chasm to the raven’s nest.

It was a bestial, hideous monster. It’s forelegs and body was that of a powerful, heavy-set stag, and they lashed inside the raven’s nest kicking the Prophet. It’s forequarters were those of a gigantic bird of prey and they clutched the railing at the side of the perch. It’s head combined the worst features of a stag and a jackal, with sharp, viscous teeth and a deadly rack of horns.

Parizade was the last to leave the kitchen, but she did so in an swirling whirlwind of spilled flour, sugar and salt. Moments later she reappeared at the helm of her ship.

Quinvera swung her curved sword in a deadly and precise figure of eight and then flung a jagged bolt of ice from the tip of the blade. But the luck of the fey was not with Quin this morning, the icebolt cut it’s way through several lines before burying itself under the raven’s nest.

“Damn it!” Quin cried. “Get down here and fight you big brute!”

Sara skipped backwards with a look of utter terror on her face. She fell backwards into the hallway that led back to the kitchen. Jamila, on the other hand, sprung into action. She grabbed the nearest line and began climbing upwards into the rigging. It was clear the former lizard driver was unaccustomed to swinging through an airship’s rigging, but she made resolute progress toward the raven’s nest.

Alias flexed his wings and launched into flight, desperately trying to escape the raven’s nest. The condor was hit hard, and momentarily caught, upon the beast’s jagged antlers. Alias half-fell, half-flew in a chaotic spiral of condor feathers to the deck below.

“We’ve stirred up a nest! But, perhaps they seek only to defend their nestlings?” the Prophet yelled, a human again with a badly bleeding leg. “Let us shake the first one loose and fly, should they follow, we will know their true intent.”

Alriak reached into his witchbag and tossed some dust into the air muttering, “Breath of air from nature comes, cleanse this place with winds that gust.”

A strong blast of air rocked the creature on the raven’s nest and threatened to dislodge it and send it careening from the airship. But it clung to rails and snarled in defiance, “Two spell flingers? I’ll eat your hearts and feed your bodies to my young!”

Ali stepped back into the hallway and helped Sara to her feet, the two former merchants cowering in the cover of the aft-castle.

“Come on then! Come on, let’s ’ave ya!” First Mate Hanbal yelled as he placed his back against Quin’s and waved an axe in each hand.

The huge creature leaped from the raven’s mast and plummeted toward the deck. It landed with a crash among the companions on the deck. It lunged again at Alias with it’s deadly antlers but the wounded druid was able to roll aside. The other two, forced away by Alias’ prayer, were rapidly returning. One from the port-side, and the other from the starboard.

Far above the deck, Parizade began a series of arcane rituals. The flaming elemental began to awake within it’s harness, slowly at first, the burning inferno of the ship’s engine was coming to life.

Quin leaped at the beast, her iron sickle sword slashing it’s flanks. It barely caused the creature to flinch, but it was at least enough for the druid to scrabble to his feet and back away from it’s crashing hooves. Alias bumped into Jamila, who had crashed back to the deck in her haste to reach his side.

The Prophet raised his voice in prayer, as the former slave stood between him and the creature grasping nothing but a wooden belaying pin. A jagged bolt of lightning ripped out of the morning sky and electrified the beast.

Alriak reached again into his satchel and tossed a small feather and a handful of sand into the air. “Wind! My friend, please come to aide in my hand. Please form your blade. As sharp as any weapon known and stronger than if formed of stone.”

Holding a black shield, emblazoned with a shiny starfield, and a blade made of nothing but whistling wind and air, the witch ran to join Hanbal and Quin. The First Mate’s axes rose and fell but, despite the girth of the Templar’s arms, they failed to penetrate the beast’s thick hide.

“There is no magister aboard this vessel.” Alriak yelled. “Who is it you seek?”

“Magister! Witch!” The creature reared up on it’s hind legs it’s hooves lashing about it at anyone close enough, and gouging with it’s antlers. Alriak caught a glancing blow to the shoulder. “Your magic-using hearts taste of the same lies and falsehoods!”

The other two glided over the melee. Their bizarre sibeccai-like shadows trailed beneath them. The two flew at Jamila and Alias; the unnatural shadows reaching, stretching, grasping for the pair. Alias leaped aside into the deeper shadow of the aft-castle, but Jamila was not so fortunate. Her own shadow was swallowed by the shadow of the flying creature, merging and melting until they became as one.

Both creatures landed heavily upon the deck, the one before Jamila cackled madly, at seeing their shadows enmeshed together, “You’re mine now!” It snarled.

The other charged down, like a bull out of the sky, it’s antlers spearing Alias in the chest, and it’s hooves kicking hard at his stomach driving the druid backwards against the ship’s rail and landing in an ungraceful crash.

The airship lunged forward. It was not a steady start, ripped from it’s magical anchor by the genie’s urgency. Jamila and Alias both stumbled with the sudden motion, falling to the deck, but so, too did their attackers, their hooves and talons scattering for purchase on the hard-wooden planks.

Quin slashed again with her curved sword, cutting another slash into the thing’s hide. The mage blade then drew her dagger from her belt and lunged. The dagger sank deep into the creature’s neck and it collapsed immediately. Quin didn’t relinquish her grip, driving the blade deeper and straddling the dying monster in it’s violent death throes, bellowing a defiant war cry.

Jamila swung her makeshift club at the slavering jaws approaching her, but the creature only gave an evil laugh. Alias dragged himself defiantly back to his feet, these stag-harpies had an evil shadow. Was it possible that thing had somehow tethered itself to the slave-girl by their shadows? These stag-harpies must have the touch of Hell upon them, the Prophet hadn’t felt this devilish presence since the Black Mist threatened Yhakkoth. These things were demons, slaves of those Fallen angels that had betrayed Shoshanna.

“Ullrey, Witch,” Alias cried, drawing his sword and rushing forward. “Mind the shadows, I fear the one called Jamila has been majiked! Quin, May the Great Mother shine upon you and your sword! They will not reason.”

“Quin, if you command the genie of this ship I beg you tell her to get us out of here quickly.” Alriak called out as he rushed to Jamila and the Prophet. He started to pass a healing draught to the Prophet.

“Defend your women, witch,” the druid cried out gasping from his chest wound. “I have not traveled this far to be struck down by ranting harpies!”

The witch turned back to the monsters, still scrabbling for purchase on the racing deck, and raised his hands. A thick fog rose up from the deck around the witch and spread outwards. Alriak, Jamila, Alias and the two creatures were soon enveloped and obscured from view.

“Quickly now, ship mates!” First Mate Hanbal bellowed. His powerful voice carrying to all corners of the deck. “Everybody get inside and brace yourselves. Captain, cut the engines and dive. We’ll shake ‘em loose while they can’t see! All hands, inside, and grab a-hold!”

The Templar raced for the hallway to the kitchen, joining Ali and Sara.

A torrent of high-pitched threats and curses began from within the blinding mist, the two creatures clattered around on the deck unable to find their prey. One of the two stumbled against the rail and fell overboard, screaming, as it struggled to correct it’s unexpected fall.

The Princess Parizade had been steadily gaining altitude since it bolted free of it’s anchorage. But now, the fiery living engine suddenly went dull and the nose of the Royal Airship immediately stopping rising and began to dip. This was what the First Mate had been anticipating, “All hands! Get yer arses indoors or grab a-hold!”

Quin returned her sword to it’s sheath, her dagger gripped tightly she raced for the kitchen hallway. The closer she came to the doorway, the steeper the incline became, the Merchant Sara leaned out of the doorway and grasped Quin’s outstretched hand. Jamila appeared from the obscuring fog and, in turn, grabbed Quin’s hand. The women fell into a pile in the hallway as the airship continued to fall steeply. None of them noticed how Jamila’s shadow stretched, defying all possibility, through the doorway and back into the fog.

“I shall fly down and kill their younglings as punishment." Alias’ voice called from within the fog, which appeared to be spreading, engulfing yet more of the deck. "Let us see if their little ones enjoy the taste of lightning!”

From below the rapidly descending airship came the sudden bleating, screaming cries of the young creatures and the enraged yells of the stag-harpy left to watch over them. In the hallway, First Mate Hanbal was the only person still on his feet, and the only person in a position to watch as the two stag-harpies launched themselves from the deck and flew upwards and free of the obscuring fog. The fairy breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the shadow release it’s strange grip upon Jamila’s shadow.

“I reckon we’ve seen the buggers off,” he said.

The deck righted itself, parting the crest of a massive dune in it’s wake, and shot across the sky faster than the creatures could hope to follow. The thick fog quickly dissipated with the passage of the ship’s motion, revealing Alias and Alriak in a tangled heap of their own against the ship’s railing.

“I’m impressed you land lubbers kept your feet as long as you did,” the First Mate chuckled. “You’d do well to keep your condor wings handy if you’re going to stay on deck when we have to take such defensive maneuvers.”

The bump on Alriak’s head throbbed with every movement as he looked over the side of the ship. “I think we managed to shake them.”

Alias smeared blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. He flicked the blood upon the deck … an alarming amount, much of it covering Alriak’s robes and fur. Very much still bleeding and bruised, he smiled at Hanbal.

“In my land, surrounded by a great sea of blue they say upon a midsummer’s night you can see the man in the moon. Here they probably see a dog.” Still smiling he spit more blood from his mouth and his chest wound steadily dripped more upon the deck. He staggered a little.

“The albatross tells me the air gets thin if you fly high enough,” he said still gurgling slightly and with raspy breath. “You can see how the whole world turns against itself as it spins. Up, up, up. Some say if you go too high you can’t come down at all. Like falling up. You would do well to keep your condor wings handy. Handy. Up, up, up, up.”

The Prophet laughed, with even more blood oozing from his chest and face. He turned and swooned, passing out on the deck.

“We should try and get him inside and stop the bleeding.”

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Ali, of House Summonel (NPC)
Alias, Prophet of Anaru (Doug Harris)
Alriak (MacGreine)
Jamila the Driver (NPC)
First Mate Hanbal (NPC)
Princess Parizade (NPC)
Quinvera the Tall (Donna Hewitt)
Sara, of House Summonel (NPC)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2011

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Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Three)

Date: Mother’s Day, 15th Dar 798 P.L. (Nighttime)
Location: The Raven’s Nest, The Princess Parizade

AliasThe full moon was high in the sky. The heat of the day had fully drained away becoming an impossible memory in the sharp chill of the night. The airship was silent, everyone had closed a door on the day and fallen into a slumber.

Everyone except Princess Parizade. She, alone, stood at the helm steering the airship ever-West. The flaming elemental had burned strong throughout the evening and into the night but even it needed to be rested – lest the elemental be consumed and the airship left without power.

Skakrum, Be at ease, Flame of the Ship.” Parizade said, and the fire elemental burned low, dwindling to barely visible tongues of fire, licking through the arcane harness that bound it to the airship. As the elemental burned low, the airship lost power and slowed to a halt. The genie performed a complex arcane ritual aboard the helm, anchoring the airship a mere ten feet or so from the crest of a star-shaped dune, itself the size of a mountain. The deep desert of Farid never ceased to amaze the genie.

The blue-skinned woman sped through the open window on the wings of the wind, scattering dust in her wake. In a flurry of dust and a heartbeat, she reappeared sitting, delicately upon the rigging just below the Raven’s Nest and just across from a large condor.

“Maybe the stables would be more comfortable to you, Prophet Alias?” Parizade smiled and removed her veil. “They are built to house several giants eagles, you know. I came up here to speak with you, if I may Prophet.” The genie smiled, sadly.

“Yes I will talk with you, Jinn,” the Prophet said, after flying near to her and returning to human form.

“I know that you think little of my husband’s fate, or of my broken heart.” She began.

“You have free-will as a mortal does, despite your nature. I can hold in my heart some sentiment for your loss of love." Alias replied.

“But your own goals are much purer, much holier, and I understand.”

“Yeah,” Alias said. “It is true I am on a higher path and calling, but the restive heart of love and happiness is pleasing to the sight of Shoshanna. The Great Mother does not wish to see her creation suffer or feel loneliness and despair. Injustice can be corrected and your complaint seems true.”

“It does seem that our paths have converged.” The genie raised her downcast eyes to meet Alias’ burning gaze. “We both seek to gain entrance to the Sand King’s tower, for our own reasons, but the goal is the same.”

“I am frightened by Alriak’s dream. Does it inform our actions? Do we fly directly to Ishtaduk and the Dark Tower? Or do we first seek the blessings of Anwen?”

“It is of mutual advantage that we seek the same being regardless of our reasons. But a journey of revenge is not what the Daughter Goddess will bless.” Alias was perched lotus style on the beam beside the beautiful genie. "Yeah, to you, Jinn, I say this: we will surely all be destroyed if we approach the Sand King in personal wrath, and especially if we fail to honor the Daughter Goddess Anwen first.”

Parizade nodded, accepting the Prophet’s answer. “I do not seek revenge. If I am able to free my husband, he and I would depart this world and the Sand King could have it all.”

“You are not so different, Jinn.” Alias in a calm voice. “You are part of creation as are all beings and things. I am not so far removed from my nature that I cannot admire your grace and beauty, but I will not be thwarted on my vision nor my mission. The others bow before you as if you were kissed by a higher spirit. You are blessed differently in your way and being, but your love and your heart is of no more or less importance than the hopes and dreams of the others."

“Quinn and the others have gladly jumped to your aid. They feel sympathy for you. I, too, feel the pull of excitement to befriend a creature such as yourself. I am, but, a man, despite my calling. I am not immune to your distinctiveness and allure. But this is a weakness in our companions. They would perhaps drive with you to the ends of the world to serve your heart and quest. It is a high calling for dirt dwellers and sibeccai to stand in unity with you, be careful you do not abuse it.”

“I have not compelled anyone to join me on this quest, Prophet.” The genies normally doe-like eyes blazed with a dark fire. Her blue skin was as black as the night sky. “I am able to practice my own free will only through the grace of Quinvera the Tall.”

“Use your reason. Is it wise for servant maids to chase after the sand wizard? Is the blood of another living creature worthy of your happiness? I, too, ask myself the same question. Is my journey, my holy truth, a task that others should bear, even by happenstance? I think it is not. And I think such truth lies in your hope as well. Tell me your thoughts on this Jinn. Tell me your hopes. Tell me your dreams.”

“For once I understand what you are saying, Prophet.” Tears spilled from the genie’s eyes. “I was prepared to smash this airship into splinters on the side of the King’s Dark Tower, if he would not release my husband. And, he will not release him. Why should he, when all he cares about is his Royal Ship? And how can I bring the others to their deaths? But, how can I not try to free my love?”

“And what, then, of yourself? Is your mission worth it? Will you leave us and march up to the King’s front gate until he spares time to grant an audience to a foreign blasphemer? Or will you simply be arrested by his Templars the first time you speak your mind? Arrested and executed, you wouldn’t be the first, nor the last. Nor likely, even noticed!”

“But Alriak’s dreams say, that we can defeat the Sand King with Anwen’s blessing?” The genie grabbed Alias by the shoulders, despite their delicate perch. “If that is true, we should pay a visit to a Queen before we plan on visiting the King.”

“I see you still have hope, despite your childish weeping,” he said harshly, before his frown softened on his grizzled face. His expression changed swiftly as if remembering a very funny story. “Can you catch the wind, spirit?” He challenged her, but in earnest now. “You appear to be made of wind depending upon how the light hits you. Yes, yes, seek your Queen but make haste. Prepare yourself and the others. I can brook delay for your sake, but only because I see you are starting to see truth and not the twisted vision. The fabric of your illusions have been dissolved!”

He jumped up upon the railing, balancing precariously. “I am not of the air, but I have no fear. You see? Time runs in both directions Jinn. What the Great Mother knows she always knew, and so it is now, in OUR time that Alriak is blessed with visions. Found upon your very ship! These are not dreams to fear, but portents of great tidings. With the blessing of the daughter Anwen even one from the nether realms such as you can hold fast in this temporal moment. There is nothing to fear great Parizade, we are now, do you understand? We have no need to hold back a wind if we are the wind! Let the storms of Heaven and Earth be our testament. The walls of the Sand King’s Tower may not fall, but his lies will be replaced with truth eternal. Even if death is our prize with the blessing we cannot fail! Do you understand? Do you see? Just as a pyramid is built stone by stone, brick by brick so will time weather it away. It will fall, the pyramid can be unbuilt stone by stone and brick by brick!”

A meteor streaked across the sky above them, ploughing it’s way out of the heaven’s. But neither of them, even noticed, caught as they were in the passion of the Prophet’s sermon.

“A lie has no foundation,” Alias raved. “It is untrue. The slightest stir can drop a castle if the foundation is weak, can it not? Every little grain removed will topple this false god. I am not a blasphemer or a heretic. I am a seer. I am a blessed Oracle of Truth! I have come to bring down the wickedness of pretenders who hold themselves high, building stone edifices upon a foundation of clay and mud. Do you see? The smallest scratch, the tiniest pin-prick, once the void of the lie begins to bleed it shall be fatal.”

Alias’ ranting finally got the better of him and he slipped, plummeting toward the deck below. At the last moment, he managed to tangle himself in the rigging and halt his free fall, but not his sermon, “I will not be noticed? All the better, until the time is ripe! If this corrupt force cannot be corrected, if balance cannot be restored, I shall not be noticed by the Grace of Shoshanna. In ten thousand years, Jinn and mortal alike will celebrate free-will and know truth. I am Alias. My name will not exist. I will not exist, but the Glory of Shoshanna will fill this world and all others.”

The genie soon returned to the helm, leaving the Prophet alone in the raven’s nest. It was some time before Alias was able to sleep, and when he did his dreams were troubled. In his dreams, he attacked the beautiful genie with the full fury of his words. Mocking her, scolding her and provoking her; he mimicked her voice and veil and leered at her until she flew away from their perch screaming in grief and sorrow.

Her screams continued to echo throughout his dreams, leaving him with a fitful night of poor rest. He was not altogether surprised when the screams of his dream became the cries of the creatures jolting him rudely awake…

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Alias (Doug Harris)
Parizade (NPC)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2011

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Genesis. Season Three
Desert Nights (Part Two)

Date: Mother’s Day, 15th Dar 798 P.L. (Evening)
Location: The Ship’s Laboratory, The Princess Parizade

Alriak was rummaging through the Ship’s Laboratory. It was almost at the very bottom of the airship, only the Ship’s Hold was below decks from here. The Ship’s Lab was adjacent to the Ship’s Office and the Personal Quarters of the Court Magister.

The Court Magister, the fearsome and feared Baba Yaga was the personal magic-user of the Sand King and something of an alchemical twisted genius. Obscure beakers and pipes, test tubes and jars adorned the shelves and desktops throughout these rooms. Although this workshop is designed for a shipwright, for every carpenter’s tool there was a pestle and mortar; for each smith’s file was a pair of tweezers and tongs. Many of the jars, glass vials and test tubes were filled with oils and unguents, both arcane and alchemical that could only be discovered by poking around down here, if one knew what they were looking for.

Alriak had spent a great deal of time in the lab as pup. His parents had hoped he would eventually learn something that would be prove his worth to the Duke. Unfortunately he never did. Truth be told, Alriak didn’t believe he could ever make up for the burden he was to everyone.

The beakers and burners stirred a powerful nostalgia within Alriak and his mind wandered. In those days, he had been apprenticed to the Duke’s Magister, Banu’s master alchemist. Alriak could tell the master alchemist saw no giftedness in him and merely tolerated his presence because it was his duty to do so.

The Duke always demanded that Alriak practice his craft as the Alchemist did. But Alriak’s talent, while magical, was not that of a magister and his mind wandered constantly. The dusty tomes and scrolls meant less to Alriak than simple experimentation. “What if” had become the question of the day for Alriak and he could tell it frustrated the master alchemist if not enraged him.

Alriak laughed to himself as his mind traversed the years. Alriak’s erratic approach to magic had left his master’s lab a mess on several occasions. Explosions, volatile fumes and sickness became the norm as his experiments went awry and added to his score of failures.

The laughter turned to tears as he recalled wanting, so badly, to be loved and accepted by his family and the Duke. It wasn’t that he was bad it was just that everyone had expectations of him that he could never meet or live up to.

This Ship’s Lab, though, now this rivaled anything the Duke’s Alchemist had ever dreamed of. Baba Yaga had outdone herself and it seemed to Alriak that nothing would be impossible with a lab such as this. There were stockpiles of the more common mixtures such as potions of healing and health, weapon oils and poisons. But there were some very advanced elixirs and potions, things that were foreign to Alriak. Things that he had only dreamed of creating himself, and things of which he could never dream.

He could tell the lab had been abandoned in a hurried fashion and that the pirates had made no use of it since. Half finished experiments and spilled materials littered the work benches, waiting for the Court Wizard and his associates to return to them – but none had in ninety-nine years.

As he examined the beakers he noticed a small vial that he seemed oddly attracted to. A few small mushroom caps lay in the bottom of the clear yellow liquid. Alriak was well versed in the various types of fungus used in alchemy but he had never seen the likes of these before. The tops of the caps were a bright orange with magenta swirls patterned about the surface. The mixture smelled poisonous and ordinarily he would consider it deadly but he was compelled by it. Compelled to smell and taste it.

Madness, he thought to himself, this should be tossed overboard before someone is hurt by it. But the strange feeling compelled him even further and Alriak had the vial to his lips before he even realized it.

Suddenly aware of what he had done, Alriak threw the vial across the room. As it smashed against the wall Alriak began to vomit, violently trying to expel the disgusting liquid. He examined himself in the mirror and looked quickly at his hands and feet. Everything seemed normal. He was relieved that he wasn’t dead. He no longer felt ill and the sour taste in his mouth was starting to dissipate.

“Well that wasn’t too bad,” he muttered to himself, turning away from the mirror.

A light breeze blew through the cabin, startling him. It was odd that there would be a breeze this deep into the ship. As he turned to the door, it were as if, in one slow moment the walls, ceiling and floor of the laboratory fell away into darkness and shadow and he was standing in a place without boundaries. No floor, no walls and no ceiling or sky. There was nothing except swirling mist and eddying shadows. It was indescribable to him and he became afraid. It were as if the place he were in existed on its own, not a part of anywhere.

Materializing out of nowhere a figure started to form before his eyes. It was a short fairy dressed in a threadbare, dusty shift.

“My, my, my, oh my!" The fairy said, chewing on a stalk of wheat. “Don’t be afraid, young Mortal Man. Together we might learn to fly, you and I. You must be aboard The Princess Parizade, the King’s own boat. You’ll need to learn some new tricks if you plan to stay afloat. I can teach you, if you have no fear.”

“I was, am, a prisoner of the Court Mage. My skills, without peer, the King thought it best I serve him, albeit from a cage.” The fairy was about three and a half feet tall with grey mottled skin and a long, pointed nose.

When he spoke, his voice was soft and lilting and it calmed Alriak like a mother’s calming hand upon a child. It was like nothing he had ever known, and he wished he could feel this way forever. Alriak sensed himself conversing with the fairy but no words were necessary here. It were as if they were talking without talking.

“Drink the yellow potion and step backwards through the mirror. That is how I will hear your call. Here, I must stay, and there you will play; but in-between will be our study hall. A potion of flight? Yes, we might. A potion of healing? Our potential knows no ceiling.”

Alriak knew without any doubt, that the fairy could show him things that no Mortal witch had knowledge of, not even poor Meloria. Excitement filled his heart and he was eager to discover all the fairy had to show him, but things were changing again. The mist was swirling and thickening, becoming darker and obscuring his vision.

“Do not worry.” The fairy grinned. “You need not hurry. I will be here, you needn’t fear. When you return.”

Alriak awoke on the floor. He must have fallen over backwards after he drank the potion, and hit his head against the shield that hung on the wall. The shield, though, was somehow strapped to his arm, with a stalk of wheat caught in the buckle. It was a masterfully crafted iron buckler. Jet-black, but emblazoned with a field of stars and a burning comet. It was truly a beautiful shield.

Alriak knew something very special had just taken place. His mind was racing as it never had before. He knew that what he had experienced wasn’t one of his dreams. It was as real as his current reality but something much better. He looked forward to returning but he knew in his heart the time was not right. He had much to accomplish here now and he reconciled himself to the belief that he would just know when the time was right to go back to that magical place.

Exhausted from his experience he laid down upon the Court Magister’s bed relaying all that had happened today. He had never experienced such a feeling of hope, it seemed to well up from deep within him. His destiny lie ahead and in his heart he was ready to face it, whatever it may be.

Desert Nights
by Ian Hewitt

Alriak (MacGreine)

Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Play-by-Forum
Summer 2011

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